March is National Women’s History month. This year’s theme is “Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination.” When thinking of important historical women, especially those that have created innovation through their work, I think of Mildred Allen Ries. In 1962, The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia was founded by a strong, independent woman, Mildred “Mid” Allen Ries, who identified a need in the community. She found that up to 5,000 adults were illiterate in the Alexandria, Virginia area. Through innovation and hard work, Ries recruited volunteers to begin tutoring adults and spreading literacy education across the Northern Virginia area. Her commitment to adult learners molded the Literacy Council into a booming organization and her values are still instilled in its mission to this day.
Mildred Allen Ries’s mission to end illiteracy is still continuing in the Northern Virginia area after 50 years. Through the Literacy Council’s classes and tutoring sessions, over 700 volunteer teachers and tutors each year are spreading education and inspiring their students to learn the English language and improve their basic literacy skills. Thanks to Mildred Allen Ries’s innovation, LCNV is able to give students the opportunity to learn from each other and live as confident and independent members in the community.
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend an in-service training held here at James Lee Community Center, hosted by the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. The topic was teaching vocabulary to low-level ESOL learners, a subject of particular interest to me as I teach three level 1 classes and feel my vocabulary lessons can leave my students bored and confused. Not exactly what I aim for, of course, but it can be difficult to think of fun ways to introduce new words! Read and repeat is often the go to.
David Red led the training. David is the former Coordinator of Fairfax County’s Adult ESOL Program and a former LCNV ESOL trainer. He is currently the Director of Curriculum and Staff Development at the Foreign Service Institute. Fun fact, he also speaks three languages fluently, something we discovered when he began the training by simulating an ESOL classroom experience. The first hour of the training, he spoke only Nepali, focusing on four main vocabulary words and teaching the words through the context of a story. First, he acted out the key words. Then he used picture cues, all followed by some question-answer work.
By the end of the hour my head was throbbing but I knew four words of Nepali, and at the end of the three-hour training, I walked away with a new way to teach vocabulary, insight into what the classroom experience is really like for my students, and an understanding of how critical practice and review are to learning process.
The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia offers many trainings, workshops, and networking events throughout the year. Keep an eye out our website, www.lcnv.org/events, for more information!
LCNV invites you to join leaders from business, public policy, and education for a conversation on strengthening our region’s workforce through adult literacy and language education. Northern Virginia’s ability to remain competitive is directly related to the skills of its workforce. A high level of literacy is required for negotiating most aspects of 21st century life, yet over 129,000 adults in Northern Virginia are functionally illiterate, defined as the ability to read at or below the fifth grade level.
A panel of experts will discuss how national policies around immigration reform and adult education will shape the future of Northern Virginia’s workforce, what can be done to expand the infrastructure of adult literacy education – including leveraging technology to increase access – and what businesses and civic leaders can do to be part of the solution.
Kavitha Cardoza: Education Reporter, WAMU 88.5 FM
Jeff Connor-Naylor: Northern Virginia Program Director, The Commonwealth Institute
Leslie Kronz: Training & Education Consultant, Office of Health Equity, Inova Health System
Laura Patching: Acting Chief, Office of Citizenship, US Citizenship & Immigration Services
Ray Uhalde: Senior Advisor, Jobs for the Future
Johan Uvin: Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Vocational & Adult Education, US Department of Education
Zuzana Steen: University and Academic Relations Manager, Micron Technologies, Inc., and Co-chair, Northern Virginia Technology Council Workforce & Education Committee
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW or go to lcnv.org/registration.
For more information:
We often support our volunteers with events at our main office. Now, we’d also like to try this at a local level and foster volunteer communities. Join LCNV volunteers and staff at the City of Fairfax Regional Library (10360 North St, Fairfax, VA 22030) to talk about your experiences, challenges, and successes as a teacher, tutor, or class aide! The focus of this Networking Night will be lesson planning. Please come ready to share your favorite lesson plans or lesson planning challenges.
If you plan to attend,contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-237-0866, by Monday, March 25. Registration is not required for you to attend, but helps us prepare refreshments. Looking forward to seeing you then!
Ruba Marshood Afzal, Director of Volunteers
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042
To celebrate AmeriCorps week, members at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, BEACON for Adult Literacy, and Loudoun Literacy Council created their own lesson plan to collect the “hands” of their students to hang in the James Lee Community Center, the headquarters of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. The lesson and class activities took place in coordination with National Read Across America Day (Dr. Seuss’s Birthday). The hands are a visual representation of the AmeriCorps members’ service and are accompanied with informational posters about the hands project, AmeriCorps week, and the three literacy organizations who benefit from the service of the AmeriCorps members. Thank you to the service of all AmeriCorps members! We could not reach and teach our adult learners without you!
Suzie Eaton, Senior Director of Development
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042
The world of ESOL is extremely different compared to the world of Special Education. Prior to my AmeriCorps position here at LCNV, I was teaching at St. Johnsbury Academy in Northern Vermont. I taught Special Education in the grade 9th -12th. I had a wide spectrum of students from extremely high functioning learning disabilities to TBI students. It was an extremely hard decision to leave my job at the academy. However, I knew that I wanted to do a year of service. I wanted to explore more options and experience new things but more importantly, I wanted to do something bigger than myself. I wanted to give back to society and this position was going to help me get a little closer to that goal. I am extremely happy that I made that decision to move hundreds of miles away from family, friends and everything I was used to. It was difficult but in the end it is worth it.
This job is difficult; this job is hard and overwhelming at times. This job takes stamina, and this job is not for those who think teaching is easy. This job is for those who want to work hard in order to make a difference. It is for someone who wants to help people learn English in order to make the lives of our student’s easier. It is for someone to try their hardest so they can see their students’ faces start to light up when they start to understand. I have met so many new people, learned about a variety of cultures and have really started to understand different customs around the world from my students. The students have so much to share with us and I am trying to soak it up like a sponge. Special Education is not that different from ESOL because the students have so much to share with the teacher. The Special Education students have their struggles and accomplishments living with a disability. The ESOL students have their life story of moving to the U.S. and the similarities and differences this country has from their culture. I have learned that ESOL and Special Education students have so much to share with the teacher and that the teacher learns just as much from the student as they do from the teacher.
Proudly do I say that I’m in my second term of teaching adult ESOL classes here at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia.
Having finished one term and now well into this one, I can see family and friends asking me if I’m getting the hang of this. And sure, I’m getting the hang of this teaching thing. But by “getting the hang of it” I mean that I’m more confident in my ability to keep an entire class running for two hours, two days a week. I’m certainly not sinking, but rather than swimming I may only be wading.
Do I still look through teaching texts late into the night and early in the morning? Yes. I also still go day-by-day laboring over lesson plans. And I still check out fifty resource books from libraries public and LCNV-affiliated only to read just two or three pages in four of them. But competence can come with time and experience. I’ll continue to build a baseline reference knowledge of typical language performance at the levels I teach (if “typical” is even truly possible in adult second language acquisition!). I’ll continue to build a repertoire of activities and teaching strategies by attending in-services and workshops.
So what makes this spring term different from the fall one? More time. To offer an example from the field of literacy, difficulty in decoding words is said to divert attention away from reading comprehension. Automating their decoding skills and sight word recognition is a way for readers to improve their comprehension. Similarly, in the early goings I was preoccupied with managing a class of 10-20 adult learners and coming up with learning objective-based lessons. Now that I’m more comfortable with classroom management skills, I have the mental energy and time to think about how I can help individual learners in my class. Some activity ideas I heard about in the in-services? I can actually make time to experiment with them in class! Of course, I would still like more time between classes to reflect on how I can make this or that better, more space to become aware of what I still need to know to teach more effectively.
But, for all that professional development talk, there’s been a constant since the beginning – the learners. Whether they call me “teacher”, “maestro”, or “profe(sor)”, they’re counting on me to be there for them. Counting on me to make learning English an enjoyable and achievable task, to bring it every class.
With all of my 0.48 years of classroom teaching experience, I am still a novice teacher. And proudly do I say so! After all, it’s just part of developing into an experienced and, hopefully, expert teacher down the road.
Tags: children's entertainment, Clifford the Big Red Dog, WETA
Reading: A Family Affair (RAFA) is a family literacy day presented by LCNV and Signature Sponsor Verizon. This Saturday, March 2, RAFA will spotlight storytellers, musicians, dancers, and puppeteers from the greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Stories are told in many ways. Engage all of your senses in the magic of literacy! A $5 suggested donation per family will benefit LCNV’s Student Scholarship and Advancement Fund.
Can’t make it to this event? LCNV changes the lives of over 1,500 adults and their families each year, teaching life skills and workforce skills to adults who read English below the fifth-grade level. Many have learning differences or are not literate in their native languages. Please help one of these learners today by making a tax-deductible donation!
- $25 = Oxford Picture Dictionary for a student in our Family Learning Program
- $50 = a scholarship for one adult for 12 weeks of English class
- $100 = training for two tutors to work one-to-one with adult learners.
All new or increased gifts of any amount will be matched dollar-for-dollar by a generous challenge grant. Will you help us reach our goal of $25,000 by June 30?
Thank you for all that you do for LCNV learners! Looking forward to sharing this special event with you on Saturday!